FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Calvin Pryor doesn’t have a single interception or many notable plays this season, but the Jets safety isn’t dismayed by his stat sheet.
Whether the outside world sees it or not, progress is being made, he said. And his coaches agree.
“I ain’t got nothing to prove to the fans,” Pryor said Thursday. “It’s all about me. I have to look at myself in the mirror. That’s all I’m worried about.”
Many expected Pryor, the 18th overall pick in 2014, to take a dramatic leap forward in his third NFL season. His college nickname, “Louisville Slugger,” was backed up by his highlight tape of punishing body blows. But the bar was raised as soon as former Jets coach Rex Ryan boasted about Pryor being a Jack Tatum-style safety.
This season, those crushing hits have been few and far between. And in 13 games (he missed the Colts game with a concussion), Pryor has yet to make an impact play.
“I’m at a comfortable place,” he said, though he later added that he’s not playing as well as he expected.
“First couple games, I got off to a slow start. I have no idea [why]. People get off to slow starts,” Pryor said. “I’m not worried about next year. It’s about right now. I think I’ve gotten better since then and I’m going to keep getting better. That’s what I’m worried about.”
Jets coach Todd Bowles said he has seen progress, too.
“He’s made some strides,” he said this week. “He’s had some good games. He’s had some not-so-good ballgames. But from an experience standpoint, mentally, yes, physically, out of position at times. There are some things that he’s still growing on as a player, which is getting better, but he’s making some strides.”
Pryor’s so-so season is a reflection of the collective struggles of Bowles’ defense, which has taken a considerable step backward under his leadership in Year 2. The Jets (4-10) are 21st in passing defense, tied for 22nd in red-zone defense, tied for 29th in takeaways and 30th in the league in sacks.
The word “miscommunication” has been used often by players and coaches to explain their weekly miscues and mental lapses. The plays have been there for the taking, said Pryor, who added: “It’s a lot of missed opportunities.”
He also said, “It is what it is at this point. I think we’ve gotten better as a group.”
Asked if facing a tougher schedule this year might be a factor in their struggles, Pryor said: “That can play a role in it, I guess. Yeah.
“Each year is going to be the same, man. All 32 teams in the NFL are going to go out there and try to give it [their best] shot and have a chance to play for the Super Bowl. So every team, any given Sunday. So I’m not worried about the opponent. You have to focus on doing the right things to win ballgames. And that we didn’t do.”